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FSX Chicago Newsletter July 01 2016 ✈

FSX Chicago Newsletter July 01 – July 15, 2016



If you have any aviation stories you would like to share, please send them to fsxchicago@gmail.com and we will publish them in our future editions and directly on our websites! Are you working on an interesting project? Let the community know!


Regulations will create new opportunities for business and government to use drones.

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has finalized the first operational rules (PDF) for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”), opening pathways towards fully integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace. These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives.

“We are part of a new era in aviation, and the potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do certain jobs, gather information, and deploy disaster relief,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation, while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.”


According to industry estimates, the rule could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.

The new rule, which takes effect in late August, offers safety regulations for unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations.

The rule’s provisions are designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground. The regulations require pilots to keep an unmanned aircraft within visual line of sight. Operations are allowed during daylight and during twilight if the drone has anti-collision lights. The new regulations also address height and speed restrictions and other operational limits, such as prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground who aren’t directly participating in the UAS operation.



Great AVIATION Quotes

“Trouble in the air is very rare. It is hitting the ground that causes it”… (Amelia Earhart, pilot)




FAA issues final policy on airport hangar use

Hangar_Use_01The FAA has issued a final policy for the non-aviation use of aircraft hangars at airports which will take effect on July 1, 2017.

The clarification appeared in the Federal Register on Wednesday (June 15) and outlines how aviation facilities – including hangars can be used on airports that receive federal funds.

The regulator said the policy ensures hangars are available when there is an aviation need, and if demand is low, allows hangars to Hangar_Use_02be used for non-aviation activities.

In addition, the policy also details which type of aircraft can be built in a hangar, along with the equipment and items that they can store.



FAA approves surveillance Cirrus SR22

Cirrus_SR22_01Cirrus Aircraft in May received FAA approval for customers to install external cameras, sensors, and communications equipment on the Cirrus G5.

The equipment can be aimed at a variety of applications, including law enforcement, surveillance, wildlife surveys, search and rescue, pipeline patrol, and aerial mapping.

Cirrus calls the installation “Cirrus Perception”. The company announced the program in July 2014 and said that deliveries were to start in 2015, but did not submit the testing paperwork to the FAA until May 2016.

The G5 can now carry sensors that have become smaller and lighter and were originally only carried by larger turbine-powered Cirrus_SR22_02aircraft. The approval was made under the existing SR22 type certificate.

Cirrus has joined several aircraft manufacturers in offering surveillance capability, including Diamond, Quicksilver, Beechcraft, and other Textron Aviation models.




Are You comfortable at towered and nontowered airports?

A flight instructor who flies from several local airports is standing in the general aviation terminal of the area’s large towered airport, watching through the big picture window and listening on a handheld radio while a student pilot solos in the pattern.

Students should receive training and become comfortable soloing at towered and nontowered airports alike. “So, you are working from the big airport today”, says a member of the line crew.

Training_Tip_solo_02Not exactly, explains the CFI. “This student pilot is from the nearest outlying airports”, the instructor explains. “We flew over here together, flew the pattern a few times, and now the student is flying on her own (and doing a nice job handling the interesting mix of traffic)”.

Later in the day, the CFI will reverse the drill, taking a towered-airport-trained student into the world of common traffic advisory frequencies (CTAF) and “uncontrolled” airports for the first time.

In either case, the sooner the better. Regardless of whether your airport is magenta or blue on paper, make sure that an airport of the other color quickly becomes just as comfortable a place to fly from as your home aerodrome.

For the student transitioning from magenta to blue, an obvious difference to be mastered is learning how to communicate with air traffic controllers during arrivals and departures. But that’s not the whole story. Flying right-hand patterns, or partial patterns, and making position reports can be part of the unfamiliar drill: “November Six Two Zero Tango Tango, radar contact, report two-mile right base to Runway 33”.

Training_Tip_solo_03Don’t err by assuming that the student pilot who transitions from a blue airport to a magenta field will have an easier time of it because of the experience acquired at the busy blue base. This student must learn the procedures for selecting the proper runway to use on a calm day or with no local traffic or Unicom operator available to offer suggestions at the nontowered airport.

Also, not all magenta airports are as tranquil as the one described. Picking one’s way into a plentifully populated purple pattern can present a daunting introduction to nontowered airport arrivals and departures. So monitor CTAF traffic carefully, keeping two points in mind: Many nontowered airports in an area may use the same CTAF. And, no-radio aircraft are common members of nontowered-airport communities. This is still visual flying!

Two airports may be separated by 10 nautical miles but seem worlds apart. Paying frequent visits on your practice flights will make them both feel like home.





The evolution of the warbird cockpit

Like most things in aviation (and society) evolution occurs. The cockpit of the warbird has evolved more than many.

From the very early days of the open cockpit aircraft with fleece-lined leather clad pilots to high-tech, all weather fighting machines, Fighting Cockpits by Donald Nijboer dives deep into more than 50 warbird cockpits.

Following are handful of the more than 200 images from the book.

FightingCockpits_011. de Havilland DH.4

By the end of World War I, British cockpits were better furnished than their German counterparts. This de Havilland DH.4 two-seat daylight bomber is a fine example. As most pilots were right-handed, the throttles and elevator trim were located on the left with the stick on the right.

FightingCockpits_022. Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a Scout

The Scout was flown by 217 aces with no fewer than 20 of them scoring more than twenty victories.

3. Bristol F.2B

“The F.2B is a big, complex biplane. With all the Shuttleworth Collection airplanes, there are no dual checks. You’re briefed by FightingCockpits_03whoever is the type specialist and then off you go”, noted Shuttleworth Collection pilot Rob Milinship. The view from the cockpit is good. The Bristol fighter cockpit sides are set quite low giving you excellent side-to-side view.


Well liked by its crews, FightingCockpits_04the AEG G.IV was considered rugged and easy to fly. Crew accommodation was sufficient for a crew of four, but most sorties were flown with a pilot, commander, and gunner.

FightingCockpits_055. Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vc

“The undercarriage selector lever is on the right side of the cockpit. Meaning just after takeoff you have to let go of the throttle, change hands on the stick, reach down with your right hand, and operate the gear”, says Vintage Wings of Canada pilot Rob Erdos. Most would consider that a dumb design, but there’s a good reason for it. The hydraulic pump on the Merlin is on the aft upper right side of the engine. Run the hydraulic lines straight back and they end up on the right side of the cockpit.

FightingCockpits_066. Handley Page Halifax Mk VII

This is a single-pilot airplane just as the other RAF four-engine bombers are. A flight engineer’s panel is installed behind the pilot. Duties seem to be very cleverly divided between the two in that the pilot is solely concerned with flying the airplane, which is as it should be for night missions and details such as starting, stopping, fuel system operation, engine functioning; and coolant and cowl flap operation and emergency system operation have been left to the flight engineer.

FightingCockpits_077. Heinkel He 219 A-2/R4

“It was a remarkable aircraft with a number of innovations. Not only was it one of the first aircraft to have an ergonomic cockpit it was also the first production aircraft with ejection seats for both crew”, stated Captain Eric Brown, RN (Ret.). They worked beautifully.

8. Boeing B-29A

FightingCockpits_08“The view through the big round bubble nose is terrible”, says David Oliver, Director of Operations, B-29/B-24 Squadron, Commemorative Air Force. The windows are not as big as you think and there’s so much metal framing it always seems as if there’s a piece blocking your view. A lot of our new pilots do what we can “shadow boxing”, constantly moving their heads back and forth trying to find a better line of sight.

FightingCockpits_099. McDonnell Douglas F-15A

“To help acquire a target visually we would use the forward windscreen canopy bow as a visual aide”, noted Lieutenant Colonel Cory Bower, USAF (Ret.). It’s called using the “canopy codes”. When the radar gave you a target 20 degrees to the left, you knew exactly here to look in relation to the canopy bow.

10. Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

FightingCockpits_10“When you first get into the cockpit there’s no power and there’s not a single old-fashioned round steam gauge anywhere”, said Lieutenant Colonel Clayton Percle, USAF, 525th Fighter Squadron Commander. It’s all multifunction displays and very sparse. Not a lot of switches compared to the F-15. The stick is in the wrong place as well. As a good ole-fashioned fighter pilot, I was very comfortable with it right there in the middle.

The range of warbirds covered by Fighting Cockpits is truly amazing. Copious “Pilot Impressions” give the reader a first person glimpse of strapping on many of the most famous warbirds. Dan Patterson’s imagery puts the reader in the cockpit. Not easy with such cramped space in many of the smaller aircraft.

“Fighting Cockpits: In the Pilot’s Seat of Great Military Aircraft from World War I to Today”, by Donald Nijboer, is available from your favorite retailer.



AVIATION Technology

Oldest Certified Rotax Aircraft Engine Still In Operation Has Been Found

Last year, BRP and its Rotax brand celebrated 40 years of Rotax aircraft engines and launched a contest that ended on December 31, 2015 to find the oldest certified Rotax aircraft engine in operation.

Oldest_Rotax_02The contest winner was Kenneth Gates from Cedaredge, CO, who owns a Super Dimona (N351HK) equipped with a Rotax 912 A certified engine. His aircraft engine with the serial number 36351 was produced in 1991 and is still in operation. Each participant had to provide a copy of the log book and latest proof of maintenance as well as personal contact information to his nearest authorized Rotax aircraft engine distributor.

The owner of the oldest active certified Rotax aircraft engine was invited to visit the Rotax factory in Gunskirchen, Austria where over 175,000 of the well-known Rotax aircraft engines have been developed and produced. The invitation included the travel expenses for two, two nights in a 4-star hotel, a tour of the Rotax facility and a welcome package.

Oldest_Rotax_03“We were very impressed by the efficient processes used at the Rotax factory and the customer oriented attitude displayed by the management. Everyone is clearly very excited about continuous improvement and manufacturing the best products. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the people and places of the Wels/Gunskirchen area”, said Kenneth Gates, who retired from the US Air Force after a 25 years career and currently works as a schoolteacher in Colorado.

In the new manufacturing area, the company produces parts for all its different types of Rotax engines: aircrafts, karts, snowmobiles, watercrafts, ATVs, 3-wheel and side-by-side vehicles.

There are approximately 27,000 active 4-stroke and 13,000 active 2-stroke Rotax aircraft engines (certified and uncertified) in the fleet.



AVIATION Technology

NextGen Benefits at Los Angeles International

NextGen is bringing new benefits to Los Angeles International Airport through a technology called Data Comm. Data Comm revolutionizes communications between air traffic controllers and pilots by replacing some traditional voice communications with digital information exchanges, like texting versus talking over the phone.

NextGen_LAX_02Voice communication is labor intensive, time consuming and can lead to miscommunications known as “talk back, read back” errors. Data Comm, by contrast, enables streamlined, two-way data exchanges between controllers and flight crews for clearances, instructions, advisories, flight crew requests and reports.

By exchanging digital messages, air traffic controllers, pilots and airline operations centers can communicate more clearly and efficiently. Better communication improves controller and pilot productivity, improves safety, can reduce flight delays and can help aircraft fly more direct routes, saving time and fuel and reducing aviation’s impact on the environment.

Both US and international carriers are benefiting from Data Comm capabilities at LAX. These include Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti Nui, AirBridge, American, British Airways, Cargolux, Delta, Emirates, Etihad, Executive Jet, FedEx, Hawaiian, Korean, Qatar, Scandinavian, Singapore, Southwest, Sunset, United, UPS and Virgin America, in addition to some general aviation operators.

NextGen_LAX_03The FAA began testing Data Comm capabilities and benefits in 2014 at Newark and Memphis with UPS, FedEx and United Airlines along with select international operators. The FAA started deploying Data Comm in air traffic control towers in the fall of 2015 and plans to be using it in more than 50 towers by the end of 2016.

The technology will be installed in air traffic control facilities that manage high altitude traffic beginning in 2019.

For more information, visit NextGen page or follow #FlyNextGen on Social Media.




Hiking through aviation history

We’ve got a great opportunity to hike through history in Washington County.

In the early days of aviation before the invention of radar and global positioning systems, pilots were limited to navigating using little more than a compass, a map, and dead reckoning.

Aviation_history_01Charles Lindbergh navigated his 1927 transatlantic flight with just an earth inductor compass, a drift sight, a speed timer and an eight-day clock aboard the Spirit of St Louis. Lindbergh got lucky the winds over the Atlantic on that record setting flight caused very little drift and the Spirit of St Louis arrived in Ireland within just a few miles of his intended course. In those days, however, many pilots weren’t as lucky.

In an effort to provide pilots flying airmail across the United States with a better means of navigating, a series of beacons were built across the country. Towers with rotating lights and giant cement arrows were constructed along routes that stretched from San Francisco to New York, and numerous points in between. The beacons were well lit, giving pilots the ability to even fly at night, a task that would’ve been impossible using just a map and the view from the cockpit for navigation.

Aviation_history_03In addition, numerous emergency airfields were built along the route so pilots would have options for setting down their aircraft if and when engine trouble struck.

In 1926 the US Postal Service proposed the creation of one of these airmail routes to run between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. The contract for laying out the route, building the beacons and the airfields and carrying the mail was awarded to Western Air Express.

The route chosen ran right through Washington County and the landing area atop the flat mesa west of St George — where barnstorming planes had been touching down since the early days of flight — was designated as one of the intermediate landing fields.

Aviation_history_04By 1928 the rotating beacons and directional arrows had been installed and the route was approved for night flights.

In her book, “Images of Faith, A Pictorial History of St George, Utah”, local photographer and author Lynne Clark relates the story of one of the air mail pilot who flew the route from LA to Salt Lake named Maurice Graham.

Graham left Las Vegas at about 10 p.m. on January 11, 1930 and was heard flying over St George in his airmail biplane later that night during a raging snowstorm that had swept through the area. The plane was also heard flying low over the town of Leeds that night but Graham never reached his destination in Salt Lake.

Aviation_history_05The search of any sign of Graham or his aircraft lasted all winter and well into spring when two sheepherders found the wreckage of Graham’s plane atop the Kolob Plateau. Nearly a month after the plane was found, Graham’s body was located about two miles from the crash site. A plaque was mounted on the boulder where Graham’s body was found and at Graham’s wife’s request his body was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the airmail route he’d flown.

The beacon system of navigation would turn out to be fairly short lived, however. By the time the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, airplanes had switched to using radio signals to navigate and the beacon system was abandoned.

Aviation_history_06The hunt for scrap metal to aide the war effort during WWII led to the dismantling of most of the steel framed beacons and by the 1950s the beacons had already begun to fade into history.

However, there are still a few cement arrows that can be found throughout the United States, reminders of a time in aviation history.

Washington County has four of these arrows from the LA to Salt Lake route that still exist and each one offers a fantastic chance for local hikers to enjoy a history lesson while out on the trail. If you have the time, I highly recommend getting out to visit all four.

The first is the southernmost and most easily accessible arrow, Beacon 37A. It’s located on the hill just south of the Southgate Golf Course. A small monument has been erected at the site that gives visitors a little of the history behind the arrows. It’s a short and pretty easy hike up from the nearest road to the site that lies just above a large water tank that stands atop the ridge.

The second arrow is Beacon 37C located atop the Shinob Kibe mesa in Washington. The hike to the top of the mesa is steep and covers a little over a mile. There’s an ammo can with a log book inside near the arrow that relates a little more of the history behind Aviation_history_07the cement markers than does the monument at Beacon 37A. If you’ve never been to the top of Shinob Kibe, the view alone is worth the trip.

The trailhead is located at the end of Paiute Drive in Washington, just south of the Virgin River. The trail isn’t really marked but if you turn right and head up the hill toward a rather large boulder after you park where the pavement ends, you’ll run into it.

The third arrow, Beacon 38, is located on the ridge overlooking Quail Creek Reservoir. It’s also a fairly steep hike but not even close to being in the same league as the Shinob Kibe hike. It’s also quite a bit shorter.

If you park at the turn off of Old Highway 91 for the Cottonwood Trailhead in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, cross the street and head east towards the ridge. There’s a jeep trail that runs up to the top you can follow that’ll lead you directly to the arrow.

Aviation_history_08The fourth arrow is up off the Black Ridge exit on Interstate 15. Just after you get off Exit 36 and begin driving north, take a left onto 3850 South. Follow the road for a half mile or so and then you take the first left onto a dirt road. Follow the dirt road to a fork. If you veer left you’ll pass some cell phone towers, park about a hundred yards past the towers and then hike north through a large cheat grass field into the grove of junipers where the beacon is located. If you turn right you’ll just drive for a few hundred yards until you get close to the location of the arrow. There’s not really a trail into the arrow from either direction, you’ll have to bushwhack your way in. It’s a fairly flat and easy hike no matter which direction you use to approach the arrow.

Aviation_history_10While the concrete making up Beacon 40A is in the worst condition (it’s cracked and crumbling in a few places) there are a few traces of the yellow paint that was once all over the arrow that can still be seen. The grove of trees surrounding the arrow obscure the view so unlike the trip to the other arrows in Washington County, it’s less of a beautiful hike that features an aviation arrow and more of a hike through some cheat grass and juniper trees for the sake of visiting the arrow.

Jud Burkett forhttp://www.thespectrum.com/




New recommendations for mental health fitness for pilots

The FAA has released recommendations from an aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) tasked with providing input on how to assess and improve pilots mental fitness for duty.

The ARC was empaneled last year in the aftermath of the Malaysia Air 370 and GermanWings 9525 tragedies. In both cases, a depressed member of the flight crew is believed to have potentially used the aircraft to commit suicide.

A podcast put together by officials at the National Business Aviation Association, features Dr. Quay Snyder, president and CEO of the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service in Centennial, Colo., who was an ARC member and served on the committee’s Medical Experts Working Group.

Mental_health_pilots_02He identified three recommendations that have the most significant potential impact on business aircraft crews and general aviation pilots:

1. Enhance AME Training
“Aviation medical examiners (AMEs) have very little training in psychological issues”, said Snyder. “The FAA is looking at increasing AME training and AME interview skills”. Under the plan, AMEs would receive increased training in both mental health issues and in the interview skills they use to assess a pilot’s mental state. “The idea is not to make the exam an interrogation”, Snyder added. Instead, the ARC wants AMEs to become better at helping pilots find resources when they encounter emotional stress.

2. Refrain From Standardizing Psychological Testing
The ARC did not recommend any sort of standardized psychological testing. “It’s not practical, it’s not cost-effective and it would be too easy for participants to circumvent the testing procedures”, said Dr Snyder.

3. Further Develop Pilot-Assistance Programs
The ARC called on the aviation industry to create programs aimed at helping pilots who are experiencing emotional issues that could affect flight deck performance. For pilot assistance programs to work properly, all those involved must trust each other. “There has to be trust between the pilot; the FAA and its designated representative, the AME; and the pilot’s employer”, said Snyder.

Mental_health_pilots_03“If a pilot comes forward and is honest about the problem, the employer needs to see that at face value and treat it as a safety measure taken by the pilot”. That might include assurances about job security, he pointed out. It also might include peer counseling by other flight crew members, Snyder added. The peers would not be mental health experts, but would be able to empathize with pilots who need to talk with someone about the issues they face.

You can hear the entire podcast athttp://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/www.nbaa.org/news/flight-plan/nbaa-flight-plan-20160620.mp3.



NTSB Reminds Pilots To Report Weather

Weather_PIREP_01It might seem that in an age of instant online weather, the need for pilot reports, or pireps, would be a thing of the past, but that’s far from true, according to a recent NTSB forum.

“Pireps done right have enormous untapped potential to make aviation safer for pilots, passengers, and people on the ground”, said board member Robert Sumwalt, in opening remarks. The two-day forum gathered a panel of experts to explore the status of the FAA’s pireps system and share ideas for improving it.

Weather_PIREP_03“We at the NTSB have investigated numerous accidents that illustrate a complex set of relationships in the pirep system as it presently functions – or doesn’t function”, Sumwalt said. “And I don’t think any of us think our pirep system is functioning optimally”.

Pilot reports can be the best source of information about critical weather such as icing, but they also can be inaccurate, and the pilots who need them may not get them on a timely basis.

Matthew Tucker, an air traffic controller in Atlanta, said some controllers have been taking action on their own to solicit pireps and improve the system. “Fort Worth Center has been emphasizing pireps and their numbers have gone way up … [they] are pushing to double or better the numbers”, he said in his presentation.

Weather_PIREP_04Mike Glasgow, of Lockheed Martin, said it’s possible for pilots to electronically submit pireps, but many pilots are unaware of the service and it’s underutilized. Presentations from the forum are posted online, and a full webcast of the two-day event can be accessed online for the next 90 days.



AVIATION Technology

Terrafugia gains weight exemption

Terrafugia, the Massachusetts-based company founded by graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has secured FAA approval to increase the maximum weight of the street-legal Transition light sport aircraft, and to also increase its stall speed beyond normal LSA limits.

Terrafugia_Transition_02The FAA received 286 comments on the company’s 2014 exemption request, more than 90 percent of which supported increasing the Transition’s weight and stall speed to accommodate federal highway safety regulations in addition to FAA requirements.

The Transition will stall at 54 knots, and the FAA’s decision (posted June 17) will allow the Transition to be flown by a sport pilot and used for instruction by a sport pilot CFI. The FAA determined Terrafugia’s request was significantly different from those made by other manufacturers seeking an increase of the Terrafugia_Transition_031,320-pound LSA weight limit (1,430 pounds for amphibious aircraft), and that the company’s design and goals are consistent with the FAA goal of reducing general aviation injuries and fatalities by improving crash survival. The agency determined, based on comments received and its own research, that the Terrafugia design provides a level of safety superior to the mandated minimum LSA standards.

Terrafugia_Transition_04The company, founded in 2006, aims to succeed where many have failed, creating an aircraft that is both legal to drive on public roads and commercially successful. Development of the next model, the TF-X, which will have vertical takeoff and landing capability thanks to rotating engine pods, is being tested using a remote-controlled scale model.

The company received a Section 333 exemption to operate the model in December.



TRAINING Tip: Tailwind trouble

Inbound to a nontowered airport, you tune in the common traffic advisory frequency hoping to hear which runway local traffic is using.

All’s quiet, so you report your position and intentions to land. The airport’s automated weather system is inoperative, so you will overfly the field above traffic pattern altitude and check the windsock for landing information.

Training_Tip_tailwind_02Just then a voice on the radio advises, “Traffic has been using Runway 17”. This is welcome information that will save you time, as you are positioned for a proper entry to the pattern for Runway 17.

An uneasy feeling stirs in you as you start your turn from base leg to final. Did you really turn base so close in that the 5,000-foot runway’s threshold now appears so much nearer than expected?

Your airspeed is normal for your configuration, but now the runway numbers are slipping beneath the spinner, and your altitude is plainly too high, even to attempt a forward slip.

If we were to freeze the action here and illustrate the choices you face on a “decision tree”, its two branches might be captioned (A) “I have a tailwind and have drifted in toward the runway, but fortunately it’s a long runway”, and (B) “I have a tailwind. I should go around immediately”.

Choose (B). As for (A), don’t count on a long runway saving the approach when an overshoot has resulted from a tailwind-landing attempt (inadvertent or otherwise). Even if your airspeed is correct, your groundspeed will be much higher. The effect of that Training_Tip_tailwind_03is presented in landing distance tables of most aircrafts’ pilot’s operating handbooks, one of which advises to increase landing distances by 10 percent “for each 2 knots” of tailwind up to 10 knots. (Above that value the POH is silent, perhaps to discourage the practice.)

The (A) scenario gets worse: While you are tacking 50 percent onto your landing roll distance in that hypothetical 10-knot tailwind, you are voluntarily “shortening” the runway by pushing the overshoot approach to a touchdown point too far down the surface to stop safely.

What happens next? Bad decisions lead to limited options, and bad outcomes.

Deciding which way to land should be based on more than a best guess or a stale wind report from the ground. Take time to be certain and reject any approach that gives rise to that uneasy feeling.



Reconsidering the CFI

CFI_01I am a Certificated Flight Instructor. I’m proud of that fact.

The CFI ticket is a highly sought after indication of capability that opens the door for many of us to our first professional gig as a pilot. It takes considerable study and focus to earn a CFI ticket, or the instrument instructor (CFII), or the multi-engine instructor (MEI) certification.

Oddly enough, for all the effort that goes into earning a CFI certificate, the position of flight instructor is often derided as an entry-level job held almost entirely by a collection of selfish, self-absorbed weasels who have minimal interest in their clients.

It’s mischaracterized as the domain of low-quality, unskilled, often disinterested pilots who want nothing more than to log enough hours to move on to the airlines.

To some extent that belief is bolstered by the actions of a fraction of those who hold the ticket. Many of my flight school classmates earned their CFI, but few held onto it after they found their way to the cockpit of some big iron bird with an actual company name emblazoned on the side. The paychecks got bigger, the time spent away from home got longer, life intervened and — before you know it — the CFI ticket they’d worked so hard to earn had lapsed. It happens.

I’ll propose this: A professional pilot allowing their CFI certificate to expire is not much different than the average GA pilot falling into Rusty Pilot status.

It’s not a planned event. It’s not intended to shrug off a workload or an obligation the individual no longer has an interest in.

Rather, it’s a perfectly understandable phenomenon that occurs simply because the act of flying, or instructing, has become a low enough priority on the individual’s to-do list that it falls away entirely.CFI_02

What’s almost universal about both conditions is the longing to get back to flying or instructing. Few of us give up what we’ve worked so hard for without a pang of regret now and then. For some of us, that twinge of remorse festers and bothers us until we actually find a way to get back in the game.

Perhaps if we reconsidered the value of the CFI, like the ability to fly at all, fewer of us would let it lapse. And if that were the case, perhaps the image of the CFI could be reborn as a brighter, more uplifting position filled by men and women with a real passion for flying, and teaching, and inspiring others.

Holding a CFI is far more valuable than simply providing a stepping stone into the world of the professional pilot. It’s also your hedge against unemployment.

The airline industry has always been a shaky proposition. Many of the big name airlines of my youth are gone now. They’ve gone bankrupt, or been bought up by other airlines. Or the market shifted and they simply died off.

Their pilots found themselves moving up, or moving laterally, moving down, or in many cases moving out. For those with an active CFI certificate, work was and will continue to be available no matter what. There’s always a need for CFIs. Yes, there is.

CFIs have the ability to move from the transport environment to the training environment and back again, almost at will. That extra ticket in your wallet can mean the difference between being on the unemployment line and being in the pilot’s lounge. There may be a pay-cut involved, or their may not be. It all depends on the deal you fall into, or make for yourself.

CFI_03Having a CFI is better than not having one. Enhanced employment opportunities are only one good reason to earn it and keep it. The ability to mentor others is a pretty darned good reason to hang onto your CFI, too.

I was fortunate enough to fly for a horrible flight school owner at one point in my career, who taught me a lot of what you shouldn’t do if you want to be successful.

Later, I flew for a man named Frank Gallagher who became a lifelong friend. Frank taught me how to be a CFI. Not just how to hold the ticket and punch the clock, he taught me how to find clients, how to treat them with respect, how to encourage them to improve their performance, and even how to help them overcome their fears and financial concerns.

Holding the ticket is one thing. Doing the job is another. Thanks to Frank, and a handful of other mentors I’ve met along the way, I got good at being a CFI. I’m proud of that. Certainly I’m not the best or the bravest pilot in the world, but I’m a darned good teacher. It’s gratifying work.

Like so many others, I let my CFI expire once upon a time. I did it out of annoyance, to be honest. So many people were asking me to sign their logbook off for a flight review, without actually flying together, I just gave up.

I hated the frustration factor of having to explain that a flight review means something. If you want my signature in your book, we’re going to spend some time on the ground talking, and planning, and quizzing. We’re going to go fly for at least an hour, too. Maybe more, depending on your ability to control the airplane and make good decisions about what you’ll do with it. So in a snit of exasperation I let my CFI expire. Oops.

Like so many others, I regretted it almost immediately. The solution was to add on a seaplane rating, then jump in the instructor’s seat for another hour of dual, followed by a CFI reinstatement check-ride. One white sheet of paper later, I was CFI_04back in the CFI saddle, and I intend to stay here for a good long time.

I’m not looking for an airline gig. I’m not holding myself out as Bob Hoover Jr. I’m just a reasonably capable pilot with a commercial ticket and a CFI ticket who is proud of what he does.

Is that really so bad?




FAA Has Prosecuted At Least 23 UAV Operators

The FAA has been very uneven in its enforcement of alleged UAV violations, according to analysis conducted by Rupprecht Law.

FAA_Drones_02Recently released documents under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that there have been 23 prosecutions brought by the FAA against UAV operators, the majority of them in the east and southeast regions of the US.

Jonathan Rupprecht writes on the firm’s blog that the FAA appears to have targeted two companies, and actions have been taken against two certificated pilots for their UAV activities.

Rupprecht also found that penalties imposed by the FAA have been significantly reduced when the person being prosecuted retained an attorney.

Not every case was made available via the FOIA request, the lawyer said.

FAA_Drones_03But Rupprecht also said that the data seems to suggest that the FAA is doing something, and the lack of FAA action has been the catalyst for many state and local governments to enact their own drone laws. He says educating local elected officials about what the FAA is doing might be a way to stave off some of those more stringent local ordinances.



UAV… good NEWS

FAA finalizes rule for commercial drones

The FAA has finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems, also known as UAS, remotely piloted aircraft or drones.The rules are designed to open a pathway to fully integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace, according to FAA officials.

According to industry estimates, the rule could generate more than $82 billion for the US economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.

Drones_Regulation_02The new rule, which takes effect in late August, offers safety regulations for unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations.

The rule’s provisions are designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground, according to FAA officials.

The regulations require pilots to keep an unmanned aircraft within visual line of sight. Operations are allowed during daylight and during twilight if the drone has anti-collision lights.

The new regulations also address height and speed restrictions and other operational limits, such as prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground who aren’t directly participating in the UAS operation.

The FAA is offering a process to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. The FAA will make an online portal available to apply for these waivers in the months ahead, agency officials said.

Under the final rule, the person actually flying a drone must be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate.

Drones_Regulation_03To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, an individual must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate. If qualifying under the latter provision, a pilot must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and must take a UAS online training course provided by the FAA.

The TSA will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuing a certificate.

Operators are responsible for ensuring a drone is safe before flying, but the FAA is not requiring small UAS to comply with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification. Instead, the remote pilot will have to perform a preflight visual and operational check of the small UAS to ensure that safety-pertinent systems are functioning property. This includes checking the communications link between the control station and the UAS.

Drones_Regulation_04Although the new rule does not specifically deal with privacy issues in the use of drones, and the FAA does not regulate how UAS gather data on people or property, FAA officials said they are acting to address privacy considerations in this area.

As part of a privacy education campaign, the agency will provide all drone users with recommended privacy guidelines as part of the UAS registration process and through the FAA’s B4UFly mobile app.

The FAA also will educate all commercial drone pilots on privacy during their pilot certification process and will issue new guidance to local and state governments on drone privacy issues.

The FAA’s effort builds on the privacy “best practices” the National Telecommunications and Information Administration published last month as the result of a year-long outreach initiative with privacy advocates and industry.

FAA_Drones_01 (2)Part 107 will not apply to model aircraft. Model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (which will now be codified in part 101), including the stipulation they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes.


FSX CHICAGO is one of the official sponsors of the KBYF campaign!






PILOT Training


How To Avoid Wake Turbulence During Takeoff And Landing?


If you’ve ever flown into an airport with large aircraft, you’ve probably heard the the phrase “caution, wake turbulence” from ATC. But how should you adjust your flight path to stay safe when ATC gives you the warning?

Wake turbulence can affect any aircraft, large or small. But the smaller the aircraft, the more susceptible it is to wake turbulence.

Turbulence_02The wingtip vortices produced by an airplane slowly sink, dissipate, and drift with the wind. So when you’re following a large aircraft on final, you want to two things to stay safe:

– Stay above the larger aircraft’s final approach flight path;
– Note the larger aircraft’s touchdown point, and land beyond it.

By staying above their glide path, you guarantee clearance from the wake. And by touching down beyond their landing point, you guarantee that you won’t encounter wake near the runway. That’s because when an aircraft touches down, it stops producing wingtip vortices.

Avoiding wake turbulence on takeoff isn’t quite as straightforward. That’s because large aircraft typically climb much faster than GA airplanes on takeoff, making it hard for you to avoid their wake. Here’s what the FAA recommends to avoid wake turbulence on takeoff:

– Rotate prior to the point at which the preceding aircraft rotated;
– Maneuver your aircraft to avoid the flight path of the preceding aircraft.

Vortex production starts when an aircraft takes off, which is why you need to rotate prior to the aircraft you’re following. But once you’ve lifted off, the next challenge comes into play. If you’re flying a small plane, and you’re following a jet, it’s all but certain that you can’t climb as fast as them. And if you maintain runway heading after takeoff, your chances of flying right through their wake is pretty good. So what should you do?

Turbulence_03Since wake turbulence drifts with the wind, if you have any crosswind on takeoff, you want to use that to your advantage. According to the FAA, “a wind speed of 10 knots causes the vortices to drift at about 1,000 feet in a minute in the wind direction”.

So after you lift off, simply turn your aircraft upwind to stay clear of the wake turbulence. And if there’s no crosswind, just pick a direction and side-step the runway, coordinating your maneuver with ATC, of course.

Unfortunately, you may not always be able to maneuver left or right after takeoff, especially at busy airports. The good news is there’s one final option: wait it out.

Wake turbulence doesn’t last forever, and it begins dissipating as soon as it is produced by an airplane.

According to the FAA, if you wait approximately 3 minutes after an aircraft takes off, it provides you enough margin to safely takeoff.

Turbulence_04So the next time you hear “caution, wake turbulence” from your air traffic controller, take a second to plan out how you’ll maneuver your aircraft to safe air. If you do, you’ll keep yourself “greasy side down”, and you’ll have a smooth ride on climbout.



PILOT Training

What is My Transponder Really Doing?

Chances are you have one. You turn it to ALT before takeoff. You hit the IDENT key when requested. Whenever there is an issue with it though, you simply smile and nod along not wanting to let on to anyone that you have no idea how it actually works.

Transponder_02Well let’s start with how you know where you are vertically from the ground. That’s simple, just look at you altimeter. Your altimeter is getting that information through a small tube that runs to the side of your airplane, where you find the small hole with the “static” sticker located. The same hole you check to make sure is not clogged on preflight. That’s it, a tube that takes the pressure of the atmosphere you are currently at and goes into the back of your altimeter. It then mechanically changes that pressure into a needle movement.

Now the altimeter has a way of turning that air pressure into a dial indicator for our viewing pleasure, but what the transponder needs is a way for that same air pressure to get turned into electronic information that it can understand.

Transponder_03The entire job of your encoder, sometimes called the blind encoder, is to take that pressure altitude and turn it into an electrical signal that your transponder can understand. The reason we call it a blind encoder is simply this, you don’t see it. It’s hidden somewhere in your airplane. Out of sight out of mind. At least until it stops working or the tower gives you a little heads up. It is important to know that you can change the barometric pressure on you altimeter, but the encoder will always read the standard sea level of 29.92″. Don’t worry though, ground control’s computers will do all the math to find out what your true altitude is.

When testing the system we are really just testing the nine bit lines, ten for flight over 30,800 feet, also called gray code wires from the encoder. You see, these nine wires work similar to binary, every altitude that is represented to the transponder is a combination of the gray code wires. Think of a piano with nine keys that displays an altitude every time you press a few keys.

Transponder_04When your aircraft gets a pitot static test we are running the encoder up and checking to see if your transponder is displaying every possible combination on its way. For most normal category aircraft it takes to approximately 15,000 feet before every combination has been used.

The transponder takes the pressure altitude and broadcasts this information through the transponder antenna on the belly of your airplane. This antenna is usually a little silver spike with a ball on the end of it, and chances are it has been broken off once or twice during a good belly scrubbing.

The last thing to keep in mind is that your transponder does not just go around broadcasting your position. In fact it is a pretty shy little machine and will only tell your altitude or squawk code if asked. Your transponder will get interrogated for Mode A or Mode C information, but never both at the same time.

Mode A interrogation is asking for the squawk code that has been set by the pilot, and the Mode C interrogation is asking for the altitude code provided by the encoder. Lastly when ground control asks you to “Ident”, your transponder sends out a Special Position Indication that helps to pinpoint you on the radar screen.

Transponder_05Now hopefully the next time you have an issue with your transponder, or are just sitting around having some coffee in the hangar, you can say with pride you do know what it does and how it works.




AVIATION Tips and Tricks: Changing your Oil


Another fifty hours, another oil change. You know you have to do it. You know it’s a normal expense of operating your aircraft, but do you truly know why you do it? The answer has a little bit of science involved in it but can be beneficial to take the time to learn.

Now, if you’re anything like me, then you probably like to geek out on the why of things. Here is a cool fact for you: The gas you put into your aircraft is made of the molecules Carbon and Hydrogen (C8H18). You then take this fuel and mix it in the right mixture with the oxygen in the air (O2).

Hydrogen and oxygen are two molecules that are so highly attracted to each other they can create an explosion when they are introduced to each other. That’s right: The two elements that you combine to make water will actually become volatile in the mad rush to meet up with each other.

Changing_Oil_02Now, if you do the math with me you have these two elements that you light on fire. The fire, or combustion, taking place is not destroying these elements but simply rearranging them. So what you get leftover is carbon, and dihydrogen oxide or H2O. In fact, for every gallon of fuel you burn you are sending about a gallon of water out your exhaust.

If you don’t believe me, then just look at the muffler of the car sitting in front of you at a red light sometime, and you’re bound to see liquid pour out.

There are six main functions for the oil you put in your engine.

Reduces Friction

This one is a no brainer for any one that has touched oil. It’s slick, slimy, and hard to get off your hands, tools and clothes. In fact it’s this difficult chore of getting removed from anything it touches that makes it so efficient for your engine.

It coats the outside and inside of the bearings, push rods, rockers, and just about every other surface inside the engine. And be honest, it’s probably lubricating a fair portion of the belly of you bird too.

It provides a slick surface that not only helps things move easier but actually keeps the things that move from making direct contact with each other and instead sliding around on a thin film of oil.

Changing_Oil_03Seals and Cushions

Turn your windshield wipers on your car one day when there is absolutely no rain or water on the windshield: They bounce, squeak, and bump because they have no lubrication to help them seal to the window. Once water is introduced into the equation they work quietly and efficiently to displace the water from the windshield. It takes water on the windshield to let the wipers work properly.

Now imagine if your windshield wipers were made out of steel and you turned them on without water: Ouch. This image is very similar to what could be happening to the inside of your cylinder.

Your piston ring will act very similarly to a windshield wiper, creating a seal between the piston and the inside cylinder wall. Oil is the substance that helps this seal to form and allows the piston ring to slide back and forth without the bouncing, scrapping and gouging.

Changing_Oil_05Oil on the cylinder wall creates a nice smooth surface that allows the piston ring to not only create that air tight seal we are all looking for during our compression test, but also provides the lubrication for the piston ring to slide back and forth with minimal wear from metal on metal contact.

It also helps to cushion metal-on-metal contact, such as when the push rod hits the rocker or the cam shaft contacts the lifter. Oil makes the difference in this metal-on-metal contact much like punching your bare fist into a bowl of pudding instead of rock hard concrete.

Removes Heat

If you have ever gotten a little too anxious with a baked potato and stuck into your mouth scalding hot, then you probably followed this brilliant action up with pouring a drink down your throat immediately after. What you did here was not cool off the food in your mouth but displace the heat into the cool liquid.

The engine you depend on gets hot, very hot. And let’s face it: Those funny looking fins on your cylinder are not going to cut it. Therefore, oil gets sprayed on the back of the piston to pour off taking the heat with it and back down into the sump. It then gets sucked up and shot through the oil cooler to have a nice blast of cold air cool it off before being slung up onto the piston again.

Cleans the Inside of the Engine

Not only is the oil cooling off the piston, but it is cleaning the cylinder as well. The seal that the piston ring is making is far from perfect. It allows a lot of the byproducts created from combustion to slide on by. The oil catches these impurities and contains them with the help of certain additives that are processed into the oil during manufacturing. It will also collect all the little particles of metal that are very normal to form and leave them deposited on the screen in the oil filter or sitting in the bottom of the oil pan.

Protects against Corrosion

Again, that piston ring does not create a perfect seal, and not only is it letting acidic by products from the combustion by, but it is also allowing that water that is created in.

That water mixes in the oil and then gets sprayed all over the inside of the engine along with the oil.

The boiling point of water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. So, to those of you going around bragging about how cool your engine runs and that your oil temp never reads over two hundred, you can now realize the mistake you may be making. You want that oil to heat up hot enough every once in a while to boil the water in it. The boiled water turns to vapor that is sucked out the breather and shot down the belly of your airplane.

Performs Hydraulic Action

Changing_Oil_04The majority of horizontally opposed engine have hydraulic valve lifter. The constant speed propeller is hydraulically actuated. Another function of the hydraulic action is your oil pressure gauge. The oil being directed into the line connecting to an oil transducer, or the panel mounted oil pressure gauge, is a hydraulic action.

There are several types of oil out there for aircraft engines. There are even more different types of weights and viscosities.

The multi-viscosity types advertise that they are thinner when the engine is cold so it can lubricate faster but thicken up as it gets warmer. This does as advertised and is great for an engine that gets to run more than five hours a week.

Part of oil’s job is to coat the inside of the engine to prevent that water and acid by-products from being able to bond on the engine’s metal surface and begin to corrode it. If your airplane sits idle for long periods then you do not want a thin engine oil because it will just run off the interior walls of the engine and expose bare metal to all the harsh chemical deposits it was meant to keep away from it in the first place.

A thicker oil will give this inside protection longer when sitting idle but will still eventually creep back down into the sump.

This is why adding extra additive to your oil can be a very smart investment. Additives can help to contain all the nasty by products leftover from combustion along with creating an impregnable surface on the inside of the engine that oil cannot do alone.

Your oil has to provide a tremendous service to your engine. After being boiled, frozen, and polluted your oil will eventually lose the battle of holding itself together. At this point it will rebel against the abuse and start working against its own environment by thinning, not coating from corrosion, and having no more room for all the leftovers from the combustion process.

Changing_Oil_06Through research, manufacturers have provided us with the ideal times to perform our engine oil changes. These ideal times are set to give your engine the optimum use out of the life of your oil change and to provide the best times to drain and dispose of oil that has performed its duty. So remember, it’s not just another chore to perform an oil change on your engine, but a great opportunity to give you a chance to see what is going on inside the engine, what particles are being left in the filter and a great potential time to provide your engine with the little extras to help it stay cool and efficient for the many hours it has left.



TIP of the week: 6 Weather Questions You Need To Know For Your Checkride

Weather is the #1 reason pilots fail their checkride. Here are 6 questions you need to be ready for when you meet with your examiner.

Checkride_021) How long is this TAF valid?
Most TAFs are valid for 24 hours, but at some larger airports, TAFs can be good for up to 30 hours. Remember to check the start/end times (highlighted in orange) to know how long your TAF is good for.

2) Why does this PIREP start with “UUA”, as opposed to the normal “UA”?
Urgent pilot reports start with “UUA”. In this case, the PIREP is urgent because of low-level wind shear.

Checkride_033) How long is this Convective SIGMET valid?
It says it right on the Convective SIGMET, you just need to know where to look. And remember, Convective SIGMETs are issue every hour, regardless of the weather.

4) Why is there a “$” at the end of the METAR?
The “$” means the weather stations needs maintenance. Just Checkride_04remember it costs money to fix things, and you’ve got this one down!

5) What does it mean when the winds aloft are “9900”?
990 degrees isn’t a valid wind direction, so that can’t be it. When you see “9900”, it means the winds at that altitude are light and variable.

6) What’s the difference between the “VFR clouds and weather” and the “outlook” in an area forecast?
Area Forecasts are good for 18 hours. The first 12 hours are the “VFR clouds and weather” part, which is a specific forecast with visibilities and cloud heights. The following 6 hours is the “outlook” Checkride_06part, with is a high level overview of the prevailing conditions (IFR due to ceilings).

Getting ready for your checkride? Get prepped for any weather question your examiner can throw at you.




Piper wins limited FAA certification approval

Piper_M600_02Piper Aircraft has announced a long-awaited type certification of the turboprop-powered, $2.85 million M600 six-seater.

The US Federal Aviation Administration approved the type certificate on 17 June, allowing deliveries to begin as scheduled in the third quarter, says the Florida-based manufacturer.

Although cleared for operations, the FAA approval includes one limitation.

Piper_M600_03The M600 is equipped with a de-icing system for the wing, but it has not yet received approval by the FAA. Piper will deliver M600s with a placard to avoid flight into known icing until the system is certificated by the FAA.

Other aspects about the aircraft’s performance turned out better than expected.

The maximum range of the M600 at entry into service is 1,484nm (2,748km), or 284nm better than Piper first advertised.

Piper_M600_04Powered by the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42A, Piper also reached the targeted maximum cruise limit speed of 250kcas (463km/h), carrying a maximum payload of 508kg (1,120lb).

Piper developed the M600 from its entry-level turboprop, the M500. With a redesigned wing, digital fuel management technology and a restyled interior, Piper is offering the M600 against the Daher TBM-series of high-speed turboprops.



10 Useless Aviation Facts

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome onboard. Ever wondered why American Airlines has less olives in their salads than other airlines? Perhaps you’ve wondered how much the most expensive plane ticket in the world costs? Want to know which airline is the largest purchaser of caviar, or who became the first to operate an all jet fleet?

Well wonder no more, as some of your questions will be answered here. Impress your friends with our 10 Useless Aviation Facts.

1. You have a 96% chance of surviving a plane crash. The odds go up even more if you’re nice to your crew.

2. Stewardess is the longest word in the English language typed with just the left hand.

3. Air travel is the second safest form or transportation. Only the elevator/escalator is safer, although it would take quite some time to travel 1,000 miles on an escalator.

4. 70% of aircraft in service today are over 70% more fuel-efficient per seat kilometre, than the first jets in the 1960s. Take that eco-warriors.

5. Mr Heinrich Kubis was Germany’s and the worlds first flight attendant in 1912.

6. If everyone on a plane jumped up at the same time would the plane get lighter? The answer is no. Actually the opposite is true. Due to the basic laws of physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so if you jumped into the air you actually force the aeroplane down a little bit, thus increasing its weight albeit momentarily.

7. The average age of commercial aircraft is 19 years. The average age of an American Flight attendant is 105.

8. Only around 25% of first class passengers pay full fare. The rest are upgrades, frequent fliers and airline employees.

9. Only 5% of the world’s population has never been on an aeroplane.

10. Pilots are 75% more likely to be at the front door saying goodbye to passengers after a good landing than after a bad landing. That’s probably why none of the flight deck I know ever leave the cockpit.




IFR Fix: The “NA at night” restriction

Customs officers were waiting for a twin-engine Piper PA-44-180 Seminole to land in Houlton, Maine, from an international ferry flight in predawn fog and darkness Aug. 27, 2015, when an impact was heard.

NA_at_night_01The aircraft’s engines had been heard running smoothly up to the point of contact with trees and terrain. A recent surface weather report had recorded 10 miles visibility, a 400-foot overcast, and a one-degree temperature-dew point spread. The overcast was lower and the visibility had dropped to one-and-three-quarters miles visibility when new weather was recorded 24 minutes later.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s online preliminary report of the fatal accident documented the airplane’s progress along an instrument approach to Runway 5, placing the final radar target “at 1,500 feet about 2.5 miles prior to the landing runway”.

The preliminary finding of facts about the accident, which has yet to be assigned a probable cause, included the statement that “the minimum descent altitude for the RNAV (GPS) RWY 5 approach was 960 feet msl. According to the procedure notes section, “Procedure NA (not authorized) at night”.

NA_at_night_02Not an uncommon restriction, as any instrument pilot who searches through the instrument approach procedures available at airports notices. The proscription frequently appears on approach plates as “NA at night”. The current version of the approach in use the day of the accident no longer carries that restriction; however, other elements of the approach remain not authorized, day or night, including circling southeast of Runway 5/23, and a limitation applicable to required navigation performance (RNP).

Many pilots inquire about the reasons for “NA at night” restrictions. In response, AOPA introduced an online fact sheet that explains how the FAA uses the restriction in conjunction with risk assessments and incentives for airports to mitigate risks and to enhance safety in cases where a minimum 20:1 approach slope to a runway has been penetrated by obstructions. A high-risk obstruction is one that penetrates the slope by 11 feet or more. Under the policy, between three and 11 feet the risk is medium; less than three feet, the risk is low. Check out the fact sheet to learn what actions follow in each case.

NA_at_night_03It’s a painstaking process to identify and quantify these slope penetration hazards. Don’t be misled by the terse “NA at night” note on your approach plate that they are anything less than a serious matter.



PILOT Stories

Into thin air: a problem even in low country

I live in low country. My airport is a measly 15 feet above sea level, not low enough to be subject to flooding in heavy storms, but plenty low. You’d think that means that my airplane sees peak performance on takeoff all the time. Well, maybe on a standard atmosphere day (59 degrees F. / 15 degrees C. and 29.92 Hg / 1012 hPa, with 50% humidity). Unfortunately its been a while since we’ve seen those temperatures.

Flying_thin_air_01Most summer mornings I awake at 0600 to an outside air temperature of 77 F / 26 C, barometric pressure around 29.80 and the humidity? At 96% you might as well breathe water as air. What does that do to my aircraft’s performance? Skunks it. Seriously, density altitude does a number on my high performance machine, and just about everyone else’s, too. (I say “just about” because a few of you out there fly turbocharged or turbo-normalized aircraft, and they cope better with density altitude, up to a point.)

With temperatures and humidity like we have, my airplane performs more like it is at 1,600 MSL, and that is first thing in the morning. It doesn’t take long for the sun to cook up the air to temperatures approaching 100 F / 38 C, more than doubling the density altitude effect and making it perform as if we were above 3,000 MSL.

This is because hot, wet air behaves precisely like the thin air at altitude: it is tough for the engine to breathe (heck, I find it tough to breathe!). With molecules of air farther apart and separated by H2O, even the flying surfaces are impacted, resulting in longer take off rolls and anemic climb out performance.

How does one cope? First: calculate. Density altitude calculators are built-in to every flight planning software package worth its salt (even NOAA publishes one). Don’t have one of those handy? Call the AWOS or ATIS at your airport (they have local telephone numbers, you can find them here). If you are already at the airplane well, just tune in and listen. No weather reporting at your airport? Just about every airplane has an outside temperature gauge somewhere (your oil temperature will be at ambient temperature before engine start). As for the humidity? If you are sweating on the ramp and you aren’t in Yuma, Arizona, you can guess it is well above 50%. Just figure it in at 90% and you’ll be safe.

Flying_thin_air_04Now, pull out the performance charts from the Pilots Operating Handbook that you keep in the airplane (you’ve got to have one, it’s the law). Run your finger across the chart per the instructions and it should spit out a required takeoff roll distance. Is your runway long enough? The climb chart will predict your performance, then you have to ask yourself: is that climb rate adequate (remember, you’ll be going up into even thinner air, so that initial climb performance is likely to deteriorate)?

In my corner of the country side most significant obstacles can be out climbed in the first 300 feet of altitude. Even at 300 fpm climb rate if I’m patient I can get away from terrafirma on a hot afternoon, that is, if I haven’t packed the back of the airplane with passengers and bags to the ceiling then loaded it up with full fuel. These are all variables I can change. I could also opt out of the flight, rescheduling it for a cooler time of day.

And what if I risk it and try the take off? Look at the NTSB database (www.ntsb.gov). Search density altitude and you’ll find a host of general aviation accidents where high DA is listed as “probable cause”. Many occurred in the summer, often from high elevation airports. Nearly every time the aircraft was overloaded for the conditions and was forced into the air by the pilot. He or she managed to get it flying in the cushion of ground effect, but once the airplane pulled away from that crutch it was stall / spin time. A few pilots managed to resist the overwhelming compulsion to pull harder on the control yoke and did the right thing, which is to PUSH the nose over to a flying airspeed and ride the airplane back into ground effect and onto the ground in a controlled crash. Not pretty, but survivable.

A few years ago I had my first experience in a Redbird simulator. The instructor with me set up the hot/high demo, where I attempted to fly a Cessna 172 off a mountain valley grass strip on a hot afternoon with no wind. Honestly? It was awful. Even with my best short field technique I felt the airplane sinking as I pulled away from ground effect and I instinctively pushed the nose over, pulled the power and jockeyed the airplane to a landing and a ground loop to avoid the trees at the end of the strip. Not pretty at all, but we did manage to keep life and hardware intact.

Flying_thin_air_02With practice I learned what that Cessna could and could not do on that little back country strip. It was an education. Want to try it for yourself? Redbird is partnering with the National Association of Flight Instructors and the Experimental Aircraft Association at EAA AirVenture this summer to bring attendees the Pilot Proficiency Center. There you can sign up to brush the rust off or try skills you’ve yet to master in one of 12 Redbird LD simulators (Advanced Aviation Training Devices). The building is air conditioned and the sim instructors are volunteers. And yes, you can log it as flight sim time with an instructor sign off.

Give it your best. You’ll impress yourself.

Amy Laboda for http://blog.aopa.org/



VIDEO of the WEEK: Seaplane Pilot Keeps Shiny Side Up

Landings with faulty gear are common and almost always uneventful but a Canadian seaplane pilot found himself in an unusual predicament on Saturday.

The gear on the amphib floats on Paul Armstrong’s Cessna 206 only partly deployed so he was caught between a wet and a hard place.

Landing on water would have flipped the aircraft because some of the wheels were down. Landing on concrete would have had the same result because some of the wheels were still tucked in the floats. So the pilot, air traffic control and officials at Buttonville Airport in Toronto cooked up a plan with the help of the local fire department.

While Armstrong did some sightseeing, the fire department showed up with a tanker and pumper and wet down a grass area beside the runway. After they poured a few thousand gallons of water on the grass, it was all up to Armstrong to make the best of the compromise and he did it in fine style.

The plane slid to the shortest landing it had likely ever done, rocked forward, but remained upright and suffered little damage.

Flight instructor Humberto Villalobos caught it on video. A blown hydraulic seal was the culprit.



AVIATION accidents

Accidents this month in the U.S.A

Plane Crash Lands At Nemacolin Resort Airport

Accident_01Pittsburgh, June 28, 2016: A small plane ran off the runway at Nemacolin Resort Airport early Tuesday afternoon.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort issued a statement saying that a single-engine plane coming from Ontario attempted to land on the resort’s airfield around 12:45 p.m., but it ran off the runway and crashed, causing damage to its nose.

A pilot and three passengers were on board at the time. According to the statement, all four refused hospital care and were checked and cleared by local EMS crews.

The damage sustained in the crash has disabled the plane, meaning it will need to be moved from the site of the crash. The crash will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.


Pilot, bystander hurt after plane crashes in Detroit street

Accident_02Detroit, June 27, 2016: A small airplane sits crashed in the middle of the intersection at Shoemaker and Cooper streets on the east side of Detroit, Michigan on Monday.

The plane had been trailing a banner over crowds gathered for a fireworks display when it crash-landed in a Detroit residential street, injuring the pilot and a bystander who was electrocuted by a power line that the aircraft brought down, authorities said. The pilot suffered minor abrasions and was able to climb out of the plane.

Early reports by police suggested the plane had to land Monday night because it was running out of fuel. The pilot reported engine failure, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

The plane flew out of Coleman A Young International Airport, Molinaro said. Located near the crash site on Detroit’s east side, the small airport also is known as City Airport.


Plane crashes near Strasburg

Accident_03Arapahoe County, June 27, 2016: A pilot sustained minor injuries making an emergency landing in a field about 10 miles east of Front Range Airport Sunday evening.

The pilot was the only person aboard, according to the FAA. The plane was a single-engine Piper Cub.

The FAA says the plane flipped over after landing southeast of Interstate 70 and Strasburg Road at around 7:50 p.m.

Authorities say the pilot was taken to the hospital after he suffered “a minor injury to a lower extremity”.

There’s no word yet on what caused the crash.




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